Aug. 6, 2006
Crossing the Bar
Poem: "Crossing the Bar" by Lord Alfred Tennyson. Public domain.
Crossing the Bar
Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,
But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.
Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;
For though from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crossed the bar.
Literary and Historical Notes:
It's the birthday of the artist Andy Warhol, (books by this author) born Andrew Warhola, in Pennsylvania (1928). His father was a Czechoslovakian immigrant and a coal miner. His mother was extremely protective, and she let him spend all his time as a child drawing copies of Maybelline advertisements.
He got a job as an advertising illustrator in New York City in the 1950s, but he wanted to be a serious artist. One day, he got the idea to start painting pictures of advertisements, movie stars, and other popular images. His made silk-screened pictures of Campbell's soup cans and sculptures of Brillo boxes, and his style became known as Pop Art.
Though he was surrounded by hard-partying rock stars and artists, he lived with his mother until her death in 1973, and went to a Catholic church almost every Sunday. His friends said that he never took drugs and only drank occasionally.
It was on this day in 1965 that Lyndon Johnson (books by this author) signed the Voting Rights Act that ended the long era of voter discrimination in many Southern states. Johnson had been delaying legislation on voting rights, because he thought it was too soon for it to succeed. But after a group of civil rights marchers were attacked in Selma, Alabama, he gave a speech on TV, in which he said, "I speak tonight for the dignity of man and the destiny of democracy. The command of the Constitution is plain. There is no moral issue. It is wrong to deny any of your fellow Americans the right to vote ... it is all of us who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. And we shall overcome."
That was the first time the president of the United States had ever used the phrase, "We shall overcome." Martin Luther King Jr. was watching the address on TV that night, and he later said that when he heard Lyndon Johnson say the words, "We shall overcome," he burst into tears. The president signed the legislation a few months later, on this day in 1965.
It was on this day in 1945 that the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima, Japan. It was the first time that a nuclear weapon was ever used in combat, and only the second time that a nuclear weapon had ever been exploded. The attack led to the end of World War II.
It's the birthday of the poet Alfred Tennyson, (books by this author) born in Lincolnshire, England (1809). Tennyson lived at a time when authors like Charles Dickens were turning the novel into the most popular form of literature, and he was one of the last poets who could sell as many books as a novelist. Nearly every literate household owned at least one copy of his poetry. He was also one of the last poets of an era when poets wrote for the spoken voice. In Tennyson's day, poetry was meant to be read aloud among groups of people, as a form of parlor entertainment, like karaoke. He was a friend of Queen Victoria, and he wrote public poems for England, including "Ode on the Death of the Duke of Wellington" (1852) and "Charge of the Light Brigade" (1854), that became unofficial national anthems.
At the height of his career, he was one of the most famous men in England. He loved poetry so much that he wrote almost nothing else. Unlike other poets of his day, he never wrote a preface, an essay, a review, a diary, a memoir, or even a fragment of autobiography. He hated writing letters, because they took time away from his real work.
Tennyson moved with his wife, Emily, to the Isle of Wight to a big, secluded house called Farringford. Emily loved that their clocks were not even synchronized with those of the rest of the world. Alfred took walks on the great chalk cliffs overlooking the sea, composing his poems to the rhythm of his own footsteps.
In 1864, he published Enoch Arden, which had the largest sales of any book during his lifetime. More than 40,000 copies sold on publication, and in the first year it made Tennyson more than £8,000, as much as the income of many of the richest men in England. In London, Tennyson was followed in the streets by admirers, and the walls of his country estate were lined with tourists who sometimes even came up to the house and peered into the windows to watch the family eat their dinner.
At the age of seventy-five, he was offered a lordship in honor of his poetry. It was the first time in history that any Englishman had ever been given a title for literary achievement alone. Tennyson said that he accepted the title on behalf of all literature. And that is why we now call him Alfred, Lord Tennyson.
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